Archive for August 21st, 2007

Wheel barrows

The saga continues.   I don’t know whether to still be mad at the plumbers or to forgive them.

As you may recall, I mentioned in passing yesterday that they broke my wheelbarrow while they were hauling road base to the ditch across the driveway.   It was annoying, but the wheelbarrow in question was 20 years old.   Of course, it was perfectly serviceable until it got slammed by the trackhoe bucket.  Not pretty, but it worked really well.

Yesterday, they attempted to make amends.  They came by during the driving rain storm (we got 5 and a half inches!) with a brand new shiny wheelbarrow and presented it to me. 


Once again, they interrupted a massage.  I think they may do this on purpose, as you will see from the ensuing discussion.

At the time, I was suitably pleased and impressed by the fact that they replaced my wheelbarrow with a new one.   It seemed like a wonderful thing, to have my sturdy old tool “made new.”  From my porch, looking through the pouring rain, it seemed like a worthy successor.  I was gracious, thanked them effusively, and reminded them that I hadn’t wanted a new one, just to have the old one fixed.

This morning, as I put on my boots and prepared to address my the front yard again, I was filled with the milk of human kindness, gratitude towards the plumber for bringing me a new wheelbarrow, etc . 

I no sooner put my hands on the handles of the New Wheelbarrow in order to position it to receive rocks, than I noticed a huge difference.   First of all, the handles were quite a bit higher, and the thing was hugely lighter.   As soon as I threw the first rock in, I knew that the new wheelbarrow was a piece of junk compared to my old one.  It sounded thin and cheap.

I now post two pictures of the two tools side by side, taken from different angles, so you can have an opportunity to compare the old with the new.



First of all, look at the handles.   Aside from the obvious size difference, which clearly indicates that the new wheelbarrow is not designed to deal with the heavy duty loads that the old one is, look at how they are attached.   On the old one, the handles come out at a lower angle.   This means you have to bend your knees to lift it up, but once you have it tilted forward, you can walk along with your arms straight and when you go over a bump the back legs will clear the obstruction.   The new one barely has 2 inches of clearance.  This has already created a problem once, and I was only on the job half an hour.

Next, look at the back brace between the rear legs.   The old one is of heavier metal, much wider, and secured to the legs using four bolts.   The new brace is thin, flimsy, and simply slides into slots in the legs.  It is not even attached using paint, much less screws or anything so sturdy as a bolt.

Everything — the handles, the wheels, the axles, the bracing, the legs —  is bigger, more solid, sturdier, better put together on the old wheel barrow.   The barrow is larger, has a better shape in front for tipping loads out, and is made of heavier gauge steel.   Additionally, The barrow on the old tool rests directly on the handles, is bolted to them.  For some reason the newer barrow is attached to the handles by means of a wedge of plastic.  This looks to me like a place that will fail rather quickly. 

I stood and looked at the new wheelbarrow, and thought that I would not have bought such a cheap-ass piece of junk.   I wondered if the plumbers had thought I was so ignorant I wouldn’t know the difference?   After all, I’m a homeowner and a woman; what do I know about tools?  Then I thought maybe I was being unkind.   After all, it has been twenty years since we bought that wheelbarrow.   Maybe they don’t make them that well any more.  After all, everything is made in China, cost cutting measures, etc. etc. ad nauseum, blah blah.

So I reserved my judgment until I visited the Lowe’s site.   And this is what I found there.  Take especial note of the Jackson 6 cu ft Heavy Duty Wheelbarrow, and compare it to the Homeowner’s 6 cu ft Steel Wheelbarrow.   The Homeowner’s is what they brought me, the Heavy Duty is like what I had.   Notice the difference in price:  $39.90 for the Homeowner’s vs. $99.98 for the Heavy Duty.

Did they not notice the difference between what they broke and what they brought me?  Did they think I was so unobservant and ignorant that I would not notice the difference?   Did they think I would believe that because the two were the same color that they were exactly the same?  Were they just trying to make a gesture to appease an angry customer so they wouldn’t lose their business, and didn’t want to pay too much for it?

I don’t know.   And I don’t know whether to be grateful or annoyed at this point. 

I do know that I am going to go out and get a proper wheelbarrow to replace the broken one.   I think I may take the gift back and leave it on their doorstep, with a note for them to use it and see how long it holds up for them.   Bet it won’t last 20 years.

What do you think?   What should I do?  I’m confused.

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